Published on 06/23/21

CAES Ratcliffe Scholars enrich their education with experiential learning

By Caroline Hinton

The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) offers an exceptional array of courses taught by world-renowned professors — but it is often experiences beyond the walls of the classroom that truly set students apart.  

The CAES Ratcliffe Scholars Program promotes and encourages undergraduate students to participate in formative, out-of-classroom learning experiences. Each year, four undergraduate students are selected to receive a $5,000 scholarship toward an enriching, hands-on experience of their choice that will help further their educational goals. These opportunities can vary from internships to study abroad programs and more.

This year, four CAES students were named Ratcliffe Scholars and each has chosen an opportunity unique to their educational and professional goals.

Ashley Dombrowski, a fourth-year entomology major, will use her scholarship to support a research opportunity in the lab of entomology Professor Kevin Vogel on the Athens campus. Her project focuses on altering the microbiome of Rhodnius prolixus, better known as the kissing bug, to study the symbiotic effects of their growth and development.

“This experience has been immensely formative in my studies and career goals,” Dombrowski said. “My time in the Vogel lab under Ph.D. student Carissa Gilliland and primary investigator Dr. Kevin Vogel has allowed me to focus on my interests in symbiosis and vector biology and has fostered growth in areas like molecular biology, microbiology and insect physiology.”

Zaharia Selman, a fourth-year animal science major, will also use her scholarship to pursue research this summer. She is assisting a team of graduate researchers in Franklin West’s lab at the Regenerative Bioscience Center with a project focused on using pig models to assess neural injuries, traumatic brain injuries and strokes.

“With all of these areas of research, the opportunities are endless for me to be immersed into an area of animal science that is unfamiliar to me,” said Selman. “I see my experience with all of these programs opening my eyes to the many careers that are available to CAES students.”

Sofia Franzluebbers, a third-year horticulture major, will use her scholarship during fall semester for a study abroad program at ETH Zürich, a public research university that offers numerous opportunities related to food production and other agricultural and environmental sciences. This prestigious school in Switzerland is consistently ranked among the top European and world universities and boasts 21 Nobel Laureates who have studied, taught or conducted research there, including Albert Einstein.

“The experience will help me develop a more well-rounded, global perspective on sustainable horticulture — and agriculture in general — which will help guide me to make more inclusive and well-thought-out suggestions and decisions relating to sustainable food production in the future,” Franzluebbers said.

Amaja Andrews, a fifth-year applied biotechnology major, will use her scholarship to pursue further education at the Mediterranean Agribusiness School in Zaragoza, Spain, in summer 2022. Her experience will provide a hands-on opportunity to learn more about food security, food policy and rural development around the globe as she works to complete her International Agriculture Certificate

“I believe my experiences will allow me to enrich my education within CAES by having a holistic approach to my education with the integration of traditional classroom knowledge, research and hands-on application,” Andrews said.

For more information on experiential learning opportunities available through CAES, visit

Caroline Hinton is the communications associate for the Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

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